The Development and Peace “Scandal”: The Catholic Church and Women’s Rights

In late March, several religious right organizations – including Priests for Life Canada, LifeSiteNews, and Social Conservatives United – broke the story that the official international aid agency of the Canadian Catholic church, Development and Peace, was funding NGOs in developing countries that were, among other things, pro-choice. The resulting outcry was enough that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed to investigate several specific allegations regarding Mexican feminist groups funded by D&P, and several individual bishops stated that their churches would withhold Lent funds normally gathered for D&P until the organization had properly “cleaned its house.”

(A disturbing “women’s work” metaphor in any case, and particularly during a controversy such as this.)

That a major Canadian development NGO was in serious trouble – for funding pro-choice groups would be news in itself. However, as deBeauxOs of Dammit Janet! pointed out in her scathing commentary on SoCon United’s blog SoCon or Bust, the pro-life crowd’s attacks were seamlessly carrying over from the specific issue of abortion to all groups advocating women’s rights in general. There was, she remarked, an ironic message – “according to SoCon, fundamentalist Islamist and Catholic men share the same agenda: return women to the control that religious political authority allows men to enjoy.”

The same position was taken by Unrepentant Old Hippie when SoCon or Bust revealed a similar disgust for D&P’s supporting the use of condoms for contraception.

Terrible Depths recently took a similar perspective, too, and filled in some of the blanks on SoCon or Bust, an ostensibly “social conservative” but in fact Roman Catholic project of religious right activist John Pacheco:

SoCon or Bust is actually a group blog co-written by Chris Beneteau, an anonymous priest, and the organization’s director, John Pacheco. I don’t know who the priest is, though I initially suspected (and on reflection I’m almost certainly wrong on this) that he might be Pete Vere, a canon lawyer and author (with Kate Shaidle) of a book attacking Canada’s human rights commissions – and with whom Beneteau and Pacheco have written before. Beneteau doesn’t seem particularly prominent either, though he is an also-ran with the Family Coalition Party, a socon political party founded by Campaign Life Coalition activists in the ’80s.

Pacheco, however, is more recognizable. He also directs the Catholic Legate in Ottawa, a right-wing Catholic apologist group whose mission is to “re-evangelize our paganized North American and western culture” and which explicitly says that it accepts without question all dogmas, doctrines and moral teachings promulgated by the Vatican. In 2003, he also founded the Rosarium of the Blessed Virgin Mary Life Centre to oppose condoms and birth control pills. He and Pete Vere also helped found a new Catholic private school, Maryvale Academy,

SoCon United’s mailing address also raises some questions. They invite you to contact them at P.O. Box 11400, Station H, in Ottawa. Oh, ho! That’s also, as it happens, the mailing box used by the Catholic Legate, Pacheco’s apostolate, and the Rosarium, his anti-birth control league.



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